On January 14, 2018, at about 11.52pm, a Max Air plane with registration number 5N- HMM, landed at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Rivers state with the third batch of 560 Nigerian returnees from Libya. Among them were 20 infants. In recent time, the print and electronic media have been awash with news of Nigerian returnees from Libya and their horrific tales during their sojourn.
Nigerians, especially youths , leave the shores of the country in search of better living condition, owing mostly to unemployment .
In their desperation to achieve their aim, they fall prey to agents who sweet talked and cajoled them into believing that they could get to their dream country, if they could raise between N150,000 and N400,000. Some youths , resorted to several criminal means of raising this amount , only to realise at the end that this decision was their greatest undoing.
While some of them are lucky to share their experiences , same could not be said of others who died in the course of the deadly voyage across the angry Mediterranean sea. Others had their carcasses feasted on by vultures in the Sahara Desert in Niger, as they could not withstand the harsh condition.
Among ladies who managed to return home , are those living with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV as they were turned into sex slaves while there.
In this interview with Saturday Vanguard, one of the returnees, Omo Harry , gave a startling revelation of the activities of a notorious group known as ASMA boys in the North African country of Libya, their hatred and subsequent killings of blacks and their alleged connivance with government officials . He also disclosed that this group of youths owned private underground cells where they keep blacks and contact their families to send money for their release.
Those whose relatives back home could not meet up with the financial demand are left with no choice than to be killed. Sometimes, video clips of killings of victims according to him were sent to victims ‘ relatives and uploaded on the internet.
My Libya tale
“ My friend, Denis, said I could travel to Europe if I could raise at least N500,000. He told me that he was also trying to raise same amount for an agent that would facilitate it. I had to sell all my property , including the parcel of land I acquired at Ogudu Bale area of Ogun state. But I could only raise N350,000 at the end. Denis was able to raise N300,000 while his girlfriend, Rita, had N250,000. The agent said he would complete the money but that we would pay him the balance when we got to Libya. When asked how, he said he would introduce us to someone , who would get us a job and that after paying his balance, we would proceed to Europe.”
Journey in the desert
The trio of Omo , Denis and Rita, set out for the journey with high hopes in April 2016 but none of them told any member of their families that they were embarking on such journey. If fact, Rita reportedly told her parents that she was traveling to the Delta State University to pursue her admission. She had told her boyfriend that she would call to inform her family whenever she got to Europe. But little did she envisage that she was embarking on a journey of no return.
Customs alleged indulgence
Continuing, 40-year-old Omo said : “ We bought gala, garri and bread and also bought two bags of sachet water as advised by the agent and left Lagos for Kano. On arriving the border between Kano and Niger, the agent told us to bring N7000 out of the money with us. As we approached the border, a Customs officer came, collected the money from us and asked us to wait until he gave the directive for us to cross thorough a bush path.
The reality of what was ahead dawned on us when we boarded an open van from Kano to Zindaine, in Niger Republic. It was a day’s trip. From there we boarded another vehicle to Agadez, Niger and another to Tripoli , the capital city of Libya . It was a four-day journey through the desert.
By the second day , we had almost finished the food we took along, as we shared it among other migrants from Nigeria and Niger. We also exhausted the water. On the third day, we were all hungry and thirsty but there was nothing to eat.
“Finally, we arrived Qatrun, the first state in Libya . We were taken to a connection house . In that connection house were tranke which are camps where migrants who do not have the needed amount to continue the journey are kept.
On the first day at the tranke, we were welcomed with good food. But at night, they began a roll call and separated those who had completed payment from those who hadn’t .
Of course, myself, Denis and Rita were in the disadvantaged group. At this point, the agent was nowhere to be found. In fact we were all confused as to what to do next . “ At this connection house, the head is called Capon. We also had OC Torture . The Capo collects relatives number and demand money for captives to continue their journey.
It was at that point that I got to know that Rita did not tell her parents she was traveling. When she was given the phone to speak with her mother, we overheard her crying.
Rita’s parents sent N150,000, which covered three of us. We thought we were free, not knowing that the horror had only just begun.”
Raped to death
The price he had to pay for friendship was better imagined than explained , as he said that they were all kept in a basement , while those who were awaiting the right time to cross the Mediterranean sea , were assembled at the top of the building. He had barely slept when he was woken up by a foul smell which turned out to be faeces of those on top of the basement.
“ I thought that was the height until Rita’s parents called to say that they had no money. Immediately the call was received, Rita was chained to an iron rod where White Libyans came and took turn to rape her. This continued for two weeks without food .
In one of the instances, Denis stood up to challenge one of the men but he had his ear chopped off with a hot iron rod that was plugged to a socket. . On the day she died, five boys first came , had their turns with her and left. At that point, she could only stare into space .
Ten minutes later, another set of young men came to have their turn. It was when the third person was on her that she was discovered to be motionless. Her body was there for two days before it was removed.
The day we were taken out of the camp was my happiest day . It was like a dream . But since I returned , the horrific experience, especially the death of Rita and Chukwuma, is yet to be deleted from my memory”, he said in tears.